Sierra College softball is an elite team in one of California’s elite conferences: the Big 8. Since 2000, Head Coach Darci Brownell’s Wolverines have produced 14 NFCA All-American, 14 1st-team All-State, 21 All-NorCal, 52 1st-team All-Conference, and 16 Academic All-Conference players.
Great success brings with it great expectations. In 2012, the Sierra College softball team won its second Big 8 Conference title in three years, advanced to the state final four for the second time since 2009, earned its thirteenth consecutive playoff berth, featured three NFCA All-Americans and the NFCA Catcher of the Year, and had its second CCCAA State Player of the Year since 2009. In 2013, the expectation for Head Coach Darci Brownell’s Wolverines is to return to Bakersfield and take care of unfinished business.
Defensively, the Wolverines are as deep as they’ve been in many years. 2012 All-NorCal and All-Big 8 first-teamer Taylor McGregor (SO, Rio Americano) returns to anchor the infield. McGregor, nicknamed “The Beast,” is an intense competitor who blasted 15 home runs in 2012. Jessica Snow (SO, Rio Linda) moves from left field to the hot corner at third base. Snow boasts a terrific glove, a consistent bat, and quiet, lead-by-example sophomore leadership.
Sierra has tremendous depth at first and second base. When Sarah Rasmussen (SO, Golden Sierra) isn’t in the circle, she’ll be at first base. A former Austin Peay University player, Rasmussen is a long-ball threat and a spectacular defender. When Rasmussen is in the circle, Gabby Gonzalez (FR, Roseville) is the likely starter at first. Gonzalez can field and hit and will be called upon to pitch as well.
Look for Chelsea Rivera (FR, Fernley) to start at second. The speedy Rivera has exceptional range and a knack for making the big defensive play. Nina Scott (FR, Cosumnes Oaks) will back up Rivera and will be a key pinch runner.
Alexis Johnson (FR, Center) can play any position on the field. Whether playing shortstop, second base, third base or in the outfield, AJ is solid defensively and has a lively bat. Watch for her to be one of Sierra’s home run leaders.
The long and lanky Shirley May (FR, Folsom) is the epitome of a utility player. Capable of playing any position, May has unlimited potential and is the team’s motivational leader. Bree Martinez (FR, Roseville) will back up Snow at third base and will be an important pinch hitter.
Two notable newcomers will share time behind the plate for the Wolverines. Tayana Mata (FR, Vista Del Lago) and Carly Evans (FR, Center) both have tenacity, good defensive bounce and long-ball potential that belie their inexperience. The fiery Mata will play second or left field when she isn’t catching. Look for Evans to be the regular DP, but don’t be surprised to see her at third or first at any time. Both bats are too good to not have in the everyday lineup.
Sierra’s outfield is an exciting mix of veterans and newcomers. 2012 NFCA All-American Jenna Mae Thorne (SO, Rio Linda) has D1 speed and jump in center field. She is capable of making a highlight reel defensive play at any time. One of the fastest Wolverines ever, Thorne regularly turns singles into extra base hits and will be a team RBI leader.
Ande Martin (SO, Folsom) takes over for Snow in left. Martin came through with huge pinch hits during the 2012 playoffs; her experience and leadership will be keys to success in 2013.
Ashleigh Stidman (FR, Lincoln) will hold down right field. The spunky speedster may lead the team in hits and RBI and can chase down any fly ball. Stidman will be one of the Big 8’s, and maybe northern California’s, top newcomers.
Providing outfield depth will be Rachel Hopping (FR, Whitney), Cheyenne Drury (FR, El Camino), Lacy Lewis (FR, Lincoln) and Aleena Willard (FR, Casa Roble). Hopping and Drury will also see time in the circle, while Willard will be a key pinch hitter and Lewis will be the team’s primary pinch runner. These four freshman offer spark, versatility and quality depth.
The Wolverine pitching staff features two key performers: Rasmussen and Maddie Phelps (FR, Bear River). Sierra will go as far as Sarah and Maddie lead them. Both pitchers can come with the heat and can infuriate hitters with off-speed pitches. Gonzalez will be the third pitcher in most cases, while Hopping and Drury will also see time in the circle.
Redshirts Mikala Strum (Nevada Union), Courtney Tanton (Antelope) and Kasie Trezona (Casa Roble) round out the roster. Brownell expects a lot from her redshirts and these three will be important members of the team the entire season.
Sierra will still be one of the Big 8’s leaders in home runs, but they should not be expected, nor will they be asked, to equal last year’s state-leading 79 round-trippers. The 2013 team will put massive numbers of runs on the board with speed, timely hits, unprecedented depth at the plate, and a home run, or two, or three per game.
All the components are present in 2013 for another Wolverine run deep into the state playoffs. The depth, defensive prowess and hitting are there and the expectations have never been higher.
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